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Other respiratory diseases contained by public health measures

“We stopped giving synagis, or palivizumab at the end of April, which is early,” says Patterson

The onset of COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of public health measures to the public, from mask wearing, social distancing and increasing sanitizing and washing of hands.

While this is intended to combat COVID-19, this has brought a number of unexpected positive side effects with other similar respiratory diseases.

“We’re doing far more testing for respiratory viruses than we did before this started,” said Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

“And yet we’ve noticed like the majority of jurisdictions, we’ve noticed less influenza and we’ve also noticed a lot less RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).”

According to Canada’s public health site, RSV annually is estimated to cause 3.4 million hospitalizations and 100,000 deaths globally.

RSV infects cells in the human airway and causes infection in the upper and lower airways, severe RSV manifests itself with influenza-like illnesses with bronchiolitis being most common in young children. The greatest impact of RSV is most felt in young children in the first two years in life and in older adults.

Synagis, the antibody used to treat RSV wasn’t quite as needed in Iqaluit this year due to the public health measures in place containing RSV.

“(It dropped) to the point where we stopped giving synagis, or palivizumab at the end of April, which is early, but there was only one or two cases of people being admitted to hospital for RSV this year, which is unusual,” said Patterson.